I know a man who owns an Xbox and only one game. That game is Halo, and this man is an Obsessive/Compulsive.
This man started playing Halo at the recommendation of a relative. When he bought it, he could barely survive five minutes at the lowest difficulty setting. When I met this man, and heard his story, he'd been playing it for over a year and had graduated to Heroic. It was his goal, he told me, to beat the game on Legendary sometime that year. He was very serious about it.
He reminded me of my stepfather, who'd purchased a Sega Genesis at the urging of one of his employees. The only game he bought for it was Desert Strike. He'd come home from work, shower, eat dinner and then play Desert Strike for a couple of hours before going to bed. I'm sure he would have enjoyed other games if he'd taken the time to try them, but he was happy as a clam just playing that one game over and over. To him it was like playing dominoes or hearts. It was just another game, and not one to be taken too seriously.
In an interesting aside, I recently visited my stepfather and he asked me (thirteen years later) to set up the Genesis for him so that he could play Desert Strike. Apparently he hadn't been able to use the system since I'd left for college.
I know another gamer, let's call him 4rr0w_m4k3r, who recently went about playing games in a completely different manner. 4rr0w_m4k3r had spent more than half of his life amassing vast libraries of games, from which he'd briefly play one before moving on to another. 4rr0w_m4k3r would walk into the ToysRUs and weep, suffering a reverse-Alexandrian heartache thinking of all the worlds that he simply would not have time to conquer. Yet he tried. Oh yes.
In the year 1998, 4rr0w_m4k3r sold more than fifty PC games, boxes and all, that he'd owned for little more than a year and had only played briefly. Several years prior to that, 4rr0w_m4k3r had participated in an illicit 8-bit NES black market, trading used games for other used games to feed his and his dorm mates' addictions without spending any precious beer money in the process. The number of games 4rr0w_m4k3r played only a few levels of and then discarded in that year alone would not be believed if written here.
These are not isolated incidents. As a child of the electronic age, 4rr0w_m4k3r has been playing video games for his entire life, and the number of games he has played is not even possible to estimate. 4rr0w_m4k3r can remember playing Donkey Kong Jr. on his ColecoVision as a child of nine or ten, while eating PopTarts and wondering why the world had gotten to be so boring just in time for his arrival. Like a perverted negative image of the Great depression generation, 4rr0w_m4k3r breaks out into cold sweats if his larder is not stocked with fresh games. 4rr0w_m4k3r will not leave the house without at least one game or game device, with a backup in case the first one gets old. 4rr0w_m4k3r has grown up, but his reliance on video games has not waned. In fact, if anything, it's increased.
As an adult, 4rr0w_m4k3r has access to his own source of financing and can schedule his own time more completely. He has completed his journey as it were, and has now achieved what he had only dreamt about so many years before. He can buy a game essentially whenever he wants, and play it as long as he'd like. He still can't afford to buy every game, nor can he devote more than a few hours to them on a week day evening, but his life has been structured around the fact that he is a video gaming adult, and he is content.
Too content, perhaps. For here is the rub: 4rr0w_m4k3r isn't buying a lot of games right now. That's not to say that there aren't games out there that interest him. Quite the contrary, there are dozens of games out right now that have perked his ears up. There is even an entire console system that he has yet to acquire, and he is sure that he'd enjoy at least a few games for it. Yet 4rr0w_m4k3r is not stocking his larder. He is not even renting. But he's still playing.
On Thursday, 4rr0w_m4k3r returns home from work and takes off his work shoes. He rests for a few minutes, changes clothes and then takes the dog for a walk. Then he makes dinner, eats, pours himself a drink and sits down to relax by playing a game. 4rr0w_m4k3r owns two of the current-gen game consoles and for these consoles he owns five games that he has yet to play. Yet to even open. He owns more than twenty games that he hasn't finished, and there are currently twice that number of games on his wish list. Games that he would pick up in an instant if he thought about it.
But he's not thinking about it. Nor is he opening those mint-in-box video games, nor is he worrying overmuch about finishing any of his games. 4rr0w_m4k3r is thinking about how nice it is to have one good game in his hands that he can play night after night and never tire of. One good game that he's been playing off and on for several months and hasn't even gotten half-way through. He's is thinking that, as an aging gamer, it's nice that some developers still take the time to pack a game with enough content to keep a gamer like himself busy and interested for a good long while.
4rr0w_m4k3r is growing older. He is coming to understand that quality is far more important than quantity, and that quality is subjective. That video games, much like fine women and fine wines have their own distinctive character, and that the best of them linger on the palate and on the mind. No two bottles of wine can substitute for one great one, for example. Just as one loving, nurturing woman can sustain a man for the rest of his days.
4rr0w_m4k3r may never pare his gaming experience down to just one game, but he is reluctant to spend time with those for which he does not feel a lasting affection. He is reluctant to shop around, and is more than happy to spend more money for more quality. His tastes are becoming more refined and perhaps he is learning to enjoy life for what is rather than yearning for what it is not.
But we have come very far a field from our point.
It is Thursday evening, as I said, and having taken care of the evening's business, 4rr0w_m4k3r turns on his Xbox and fires up Mercenaries. It's not an overly original game. It is, in fact, a GTA clone, but 4rr0w_m4k3r was never able to get into the ghetto tone of the GTA series, and the controls always felt awkward to him. Mercenaries, however, is less Boyz N the Hood and more Yojimbo, and the controls are perfect. Plus (d00d!) there's helicopters. It may not be the last game 4rr0w_m4k3r ever plays, nor the best, but for now he is content to spend hours exploring its every nuance, and reveling in the bliss that is a good, steady gaming experience.